Last week, long-time king of the Welterweight division Georges St-Pierre announced his plans to take an extended hiatus and vacate the belt he's held for more than half a decade. With the 170 lb. strap up for grabs, UFC president Dana White announced that GSP's last challenger Johny Hendricks will fight Robbie Lawler at UFC 171 on March 15 in Dallas, TX.
On Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Hendricks gave his initial reaction to the fight announcement to Ariel Helwani:
"Super-excited. Who wouldn’t be? You’re sitting there and doing stuff and you find out that you’re going to fighting Dallas, your own backyard…you find out you’ll be fighting a very tough opponent, Robbie Lawler -- who wouldn’t be excited for that? I know the fans are. I’ve seen some posts that the fans are very excited for this fight, and I am too. This is going to be a great fight. This is going to be a fight for the fans and I can’t wait."
Hendricks said he was a little surprised that Lawler was chosen above former interim champion Carlos Condit, but that those decisions are "above my pay grade."
In contrast to St-Pierre's need to remove himself from the spotlight and pressures of stardom and being the champion, Hendricks stated that he welcomes it:
"I want the target on my back," he said. "I want everybody to come after me. That’s been my goal since I started fighting. Is that I want the gold and I want everybody to sit there saying, ‘I want to beat that guy.’ And that’s been my whole thought process through this whole time, [because] I need that. For some reason I enjoy that kind of pressure. The more pressure you can put on me and get me out of my comfort zone, the better I shine. And that’s what I wanted."
Hendricks and Lawler replaced the Light Heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson as the headlining fight for UFC 171. The event takes place in Dallas, TX at the American Airlines Arena.